Sunday, July 31, 2005

Dismissing teachers : When Teachers don't Make the Grade,0,2136465,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

When Teachers Don't Make the Grade

Governor says his plan will streamline the rules for getting rid of poor educators. Critics say the proposition won't work and might backfire.
By Duke Helfand and Joel Rubin
Times Staff Writers

July 31, 2005

Principal Faye Banton can walk through the classrooms of Edison Middle School in South Los Angeles and quickly identify her weakest teachers. But Banton knows she can't dismiss them without a drawn-out fight.

"It takes much too long to get rid of them," she said. "There is a real need for change."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger believes he has the solution: a voter initiative that would extend the probationary period for new teachers and change the rules for firing veterans who perform poorly.

But critics, including the state's association of school boards, say the governor has missed the mark. The initiative would not achieve his popular goal and might, in fact, make removing problem teachers harder, they say.

Schwarzenegger, whose initiative will appear on the state ballot in a Nov. 8 special election, says the issue is simple.

"If you have someone who does not perform well in any job … you are able to get rid of that person. And we cannot do that" with teachers, he said.

Large numbers of government employees and workers in many unionized businesses share job protections similar to those of teachers. Unlike college and university professors, public school teachers do not receive lifetime tenure.

But the idea of reducing teachers' job protections is popular with many principals and parents concerned about the difficulty of removing poor-performing instructors. A Field Poll last month found broad support for the teacher measure among registered voters, with 59% supporting it and 35% opposed.

Under state law, school districts can dismiss teachers during their first two years on the job without providing any reason. After two years in the classroom, teachers earn the more protective "permanent status." Before dismissing a permanent-status teacher, district officials must meticulously document poor performance over time, formally declare the intention to dismiss the teacher and then give the instructor 90 days to improve.

Schwarzenegger's measure — known as the Put the Kids First Act — would authorize school districts to dismiss teachers summarily during the first five years.

The initiative also would simplify the process for dismissing teachers with permanent status, allowing district officials to fire a teacher after two consecutive unsatisfactory evaluations without declaring their intentions in advance or waiting 90 days.

Dismissed teachers would still be entitled to a hearing before an administrative judge and two credentialed teachers from outside their district. State law empowers such panels to uphold or overturn teacher dismissals.

The struggle to remove underperforming teachers is a familiar frustration in California school systems. Schools often provide extra training and mentoring for teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations in an effort to help them improve and stay on the job.

But rather than hassle with dismissing a teacher, which can consume hundreds of hours, some administrators shuffle problem instructors from school to school in a practice known to school officials as the "dance of the lemons."

The Los Angeles Unified School District has attempted to dismiss just 112 permanent teachers — or about one-quarter of 1% of the district's 43,000 instructors — over the last decade. Some were fired, but most resigned or retired.

"It takes two to three years to effectively remove someone who is not helpful to children in the classroom," Los Angeles schools Supt. Roy Romer said. "That's too long."

Banton, the Edison principal, agrees. The current evaluation system rarely results in the removal of a teacher from the classroom, she said.

"If there is a problem with a teacher, you need to get on it right away," Banton said. "I have a few teachers who shouldn't be in the classroom because someone else before me didn't do what needed to be done."

However, critics of Schwarzenegger's plan say it would not fix the problem.

Leaders of the California School Boards Assn. and other state education groups say the wording of the initiative could backfire because it requires two back-to-back negative evaluations. A marginal teacher could remain in the classroom for years by occasionally earning satisfactory evaluations, they say.

Schwarzenegger's aides disagree. They say the initiative would augment the existing dismissal system, giving school districts another tool to deal with underperforming teachers.

Critics also say the idea of lengthening a teacher's probationary period from two years to five ignores a far more serious problem: Many qualified teachers quit early in their careers, particularly in urban districts, including Los Angeles. About one-third of the teachers hired by the Los Angeles Unified School District in the 1998-99 school year left within five years, according to the district's most recent figures.

"If this is [Schwarzenegger's] education cornerstone, then he has failed," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who signed the ballot argument against the initiative. "It shows the total absence of any thought of a comprehensive plan for education."

Some rank-and-file teachers say they recognize the need to simplify the dismissal rules for problem teachers, whom one instructor labeled "lost causes." But many teachers worry about losing legal protections that insulate them against the whims of principals.

"Yes, we need reform, but it doesn't sound like the governor has a good way to do it," said math teacher Carol Silva, who has spent 23 years at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. "I would like to see the procedures streamlined for people who will not change. But to just have two warnings and you're out, I don't like that. It could make it very arbitrary."

Art teacher Lisa Kantor bristled at the governor's call to extend the probationary period. As a probationary teacher, Kantor said, she is careful not to offend her principal at Hollywood High or anyone else on campus. Making the probationary status five years, she said, would only increase that sense of insecurity.

"You feel extremely vulnerable," said Kantor, 35. "You know to a certain degree that you're disposable. So you don't speak up at staff meetings, you don't get political, and you mind your Ps and Qs."

Schwarzenegger remains adamant about the five-year probation period.

"Two years is not enough time" for teachers to prove themselves, he said. "Let's give the teacher a chance in five years to really make it … and then have that job security for life."

The state's powerful teachers unions have temporarily increased dues to raise millions of dollars to fight Schwarzenegger's initiative and others on the November ballot that could slash education funding and curb union fundraising.

They call the teacher employment initiative an attack by Schwarzenegger on public education.

"Gov. Schwarzenegger is trying to destroy public schools and teachers," said California Teachers Assn. President Barbara Kerr. The initiative is "not going to improve achievement, not going to lower class sizes, not going to put more textbooks and materials into the classroom. It's going to hurt our students."

Both of the state's teachers unions — the teachers association and the California Federation of Teachers — have joined unions representing firefighters and other groups in mounting a television advertising campaign condemning Schwarzenegger for fostering a "phenomenon of anger" against teachers and other public employees.

It is a fight with national ramifications, as union leaders in Washington, D.C., warily eye California, fearful that Schwarzenegger's initiative could spread.

Officials from the National Education Assn. and the American Federation of Teachers said they were planning to channel money and other resources into California in the months leading up to the November election.

"California is an important state," said Edward J. McElroy, president of the teachers federation. "When things happen there, they have a tendency to echo in other places. Anyone who has an interest in hiring and retaining good teachers … will look at this as harmful."

Changing the personnel rules for teachers was not part of Schwarzenegger's original education agenda.

Instead, earlier this year, the governor promoted merit pay for teachers. His administration scrapped a proposal on that subject after learning it would have inadvertently prevented schools from firing teachers who commit criminal acts and engage in other misconduct, educators said.

And so the governor went looking for another education measure to put on the November ballot. He seized on a plan, aimed at changing hiring and firing practices, that was circulating through Sacramento, aides said.

Critics in Sacramento believe the governor was driven by a desire to divert attention away from another initiative on the November ballot that would reduce funding for schools. But Schwarzenegger's aides said the governor was motivated only by a desire to fix a system that in his view protects inferior teachers at the expense of schoolchildren.

"The governor believes that the overwhelming majority of all of California's public school teachers are highly skilled and dedicated public servants," said Todd Harris, one of the governor's political consultants.

"At the same time, everyone knows that there is a small percentage of teachers who frankly don't belong in the classroom," he said. "It's as simple as that."

Comment. One idea not considered in this story. What evidence do we have that Principals are skilled or competent to judge teachers? There is little or no evidence.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Give Mayors control of schools?

The California legislature has a long history of making decisions to improve schools without consulting teachers.
Here is the next proposal.,1,3399962.story?coll=la-news-learning
Measure Would Give Mayor Control of L.A. Schools

By Joel Rubin
Times Staff Writer

July 16, 2005

In the first serious move to overhaul control of the Los Angeles public schools, state Sen. Gloria Romero introduced a bill Friday that would empower the city's mayor to appoint members to an expanded Board of Education.

The legislation, modeled after districts in several large cities, would dramatically reshape governance of the nation's second-largest public school system. The mayor would be authorized to hire the superintendent and replace the seven elected board members as their current terms expire. The bill also would add two seats to represent areas of the district outside Los Angeles.

"We have to address the educational failures of this district," said Romero (D-Los Angeles). "At what point do we stop the bleeding and realize that the patients are our future?"

Romero's proposal, called the Mayoral Leadership to Improve Education in Los Angeles Act, is the latest volley in a running debate over who should oversee the 742,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District.

In April, the Los Angeles City Council formed a 30-member commission to explore governance reforms in the district. Soon afterward, the school board formed a similar commission.

And, after his election last month, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for the power to make board appointments.

Villaraigosa, however, reacted coolly to the proposed legislation Friday, suggesting that he intends to focus on the immediate fixes that he could make to improve student performance, although the mayor has no direct control over the schools.

"We have to build trust and confidence around this idea of mayoral control," he said, noting that he intends to appoint a panel of experts to advise him on how to improve the schools. "I'm going to work first to build that trust and confidence."

Romero said she did not consult Villaraigosa or his staff when drafting the legislation.

The bill's chance of quick passage appears slim. With lawmakers on break until mid-August, Romero acknowledged that it would be difficult for the Senate and Assembly to vote before the Legislature recesses in September for four months.

Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), who is chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee, expressed doubt about the wisdom of Romero's effort.

"It's premature to do something like this," Goldberg said. "Before I support any type of change, whether it's something radical like this or not, I'd like to see the [City Council] commission have a chance to meet and make some recommendations."

A.J. Duffy, the new president of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the district's teachers, echoed Goldberg.

"I have concerns about any discussion of a takeover at this point," he said, adding he was hopeful that he, Villaraigosa and the school board would be able to make progress. "We may be able to get things back on track before going down the legislative route."

State law mandates that the board members who oversee the Los Angeles Unified School District be elected from seven geographic districts that encompass Los Angeles and some or all of 28 other cities in the sprawling system.

The proposed legislation would rewrite the law to grant the mayor broad powers in appointing board members after designating the district an "academic failure" if it fails to meet certain criteria on dropout rates and standardized test scores.

Although the district has recently posted gains on test scores, it is unlikely that it could improve enough to meet the bill's criteria. The district would need to make a dramatic 42-point gain on state-mandated tests, meet stiff federal education standards for two consecutive years, and slash its dropout rate by thousands of students to avoid being declared an "academic failure."

The proposed bill would require the mayor to relinquish control of the board if the district met the criteria.

Nonetheless, some school board members expressed frustration and anger over the bill, and questioned why Romero has targeted only Los Angeles Unified.

"It's mean-spirited, it's a distraction and it's illiterate in terms of the federal and state requirements," board member David Tokofsky said.

Ninety-six other school districts in California currently fail to meet the state and federal benchmarks in Romero's bill, according to state education officials. Statewide dropout data were not immediately available.

But board member Jose Huizar, who helped form the City Council commission along with council President Alex Padilla, voiced support for Romero's proposal.

"I wholeheartedly agree that something needs to be done on improving accountability in the district," said Huizar, who is running for the City Council seat vacated by Villaraigosa. "This adds to the discussion and the debate that will occur."

Under Romero's proposal, the school board also would be expanded to nine members. Villaraigosa would name seven members representing Los Angeles, while a panel of officials from the county and the district's other cities would appoint the other two.

West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land, who said she hadn't read the bill, said she did not think that was enough seats for other cities. "At the end of the day," she said, "I like people being able to elect school board members."

More than 150,000 students, about 20% of the total, live outside Los Angeles' boundaries.

The bill could trigger a debate in Sacramento over whether mayoral control would lead to improvements. Mayors in other urban centers have had mixed results after assuming control of their cities' school systems.

Last fall, voters in Detroit abandoned their appointed school board and returned to a system of elected trustees. And Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown recently declared that his run at adding appointees to the seven-member elected board had been a failure. But in New York City, Chicago and Boston, school officials have said they thought mayoral control has brought improvements.

Timing also could complicate Romero's efforts. If she fails to usher her bill through the Legislature before the current legislative season ends, it could become a meaningless effort, said Christopher Cabaldon, president of EdVoice, an advocacy group that is sponsoring Romero's plan.

If lawmakers accept the bill next year and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs it into law, Villaraigosa will not be able to appoint board members until the following year.

By that time, Cabaldon said, it would be too late to replace the board members who are up for reelection in 2007.

"It needs to be enacted this year," he said. "Otherwise it will be impossible for the mayor to have authority over the district during his first term. If we're going to accomplish what the mayor indicated he wanted, it has to pass quickly."

Romero, for her part, shrugged off concerns over timing and dismissed Goldberg's criticism that she preempted the City Council commission.

"People can have all the commissions they want, but I want action," she said. "At the end of the day, you need some teeth to get anything done."


Note: How well have Mayors done at running police departments? How well have legislators done at adequately funding schools?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Corporate attacks on teachers and other working people

Yes, Arnold is injured. But, he is far from out. These are the items which will be on the ballot.

NO on Proposition 74: The “Punish New Teachers Act” is an
unnecessary measure that does nothing to improve student learning or
deal with the real problems facing our schools. Instead, it punishes new
teachers by denying them the right to have a hearing before they are fired
during their first five years of teaching. There is already a system in place
to fire teachers who are not performing in the classroom, no matter how
long they’ve been on the job. This initiative will simply drive teachers out
of the profession in California. It unfairly singles out teachers as the
problem in our public schools, when many classrooms are still badly
underfunded and students are denied the basic resources they need.
• NO on Proposition 75: Governor Schwarzenegger and his corporate
special interest allies are trying to silence the voices of working people
with the “Paycheck Deception Act.” This unnecessary initiative just adds
more red tape to try and deter working people from participating in the
political process. Workers ALREADY have the option of not spending
dues money on politics – the Governor wants to make it nearly impossible
for working people to have a voice in the political process. The Governor
cannot win on the issues that Californians care about, so instead he is
trying to silence the strong voices of his opposition.
• NO on Proposition 76: The Governor’s Power Grab Initiative, or the
“Education and Health Services Cuts Act” would devastate our public
schools and other vital services, slashing funding for these priorities while
protecting unnecessary pork projects. It cuts school funding by over $40
billion in ten years - $6,000 per student, leading to more overcrowded
classrooms, teacher layoffs, and fewer textbooks and classroom
materials. Our schools lost two billion dollars when Governor
Schwarzenegger broke his promise to repay the money he took from
education, and if this initiative passes, the Governor will never have to
repay that money to our schools. It does even more damage to our
schools by overturning the voter-approved Proposition 98, eliminating the
funding guarantee for education, which will lead to more overcrowded
schools, teacher layoffs, and fewer textbooks and classroom materials. It
also cuts funding for local government –– cutting police and firefighters.

to begin to fight back, contact

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Redistricting issue denied ballot status

Election measure rejected by court

Scuttling of redistricting plan is a big blow to governor's agenda.

By Jim Sanders -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Published 2:15 am PDT Friday, July 22, 2005
A Sacramento judge tossed the cornerstone of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's government overhaul agenda from the Nov. 8 special election ballot Thursday, killing a plan to change how political districts are drawn.

Proponents immediately vowed to appeal the ruling, hoping to save a measure that calls for redistricting to be taken out of lawmakers' hands and given to a panel of retired judges. This was headed for the ballot as Proposition 77.

"It's a round - but it's only one round," said Daniel Kolkey, an attorney for proponents Ted Costa and Fair Districts Now.

The ruling marks another major setback for Schwarzenegger, who previously has had to abandon ballot proposals for teacher merit pay and changes to the state's pension system.

"The governor is disappointed that the ruling has silenced the voices of 950,000 Californians," said Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger's spokeswoman.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez called on the Republican governor to abandon the Nov. 8 election.

"All along, my preference has been a legislative solution to redistricting," said Núñez, D-Los Angeles. "It's time we get on with that instead of wasting $50 million on a special election."

Superior Court Judge Gail D. Ohanesian, after a two-hour hearing, ruled that proponents inadvertently but illegally violated constitutional procedures to qualify an initiative.

Specifically, Ohanesian found that proponents used a different version of the measure to solicit voter signatures than was sent to state Attorney General Bill Lockyer to launch their drive.

The court ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed July 8 by Lockyer, who argued that constitutional errors could not be overlooked.

"We have to have certainty in the law," Deputy Attorney General Vickie P. Whitney told Ohanesian during the hearing.

"Has the integrity of the process been compromised? The answer is yes."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

An Open Letter to Bill and Melinda Gates

An Open Letter to Bill and Melinda Gates

Summer 2005

Dear Bill and Melinda Gates:

Thanks for your start-up funding for Success Tech Academy in Cleveland. We could not have gotten off the ground without your funds, which paid for a whole planning year, professional development, collaboration among other small schools, and purchase of technology for all students. We now serve as a public alternative for students to the growing number of for-profit charter high schools in Cleveland.

As a classroom teacher I am able to have a personal conference with every student at least twice a week. There is such a value placed on innovation that as part of my American Government class I had students produce a statewide newspaper about the struggle for adequate school funding, arranged student testimony before the House Education Committee, and brought the whole school to a rally of 3,000 on the state budget. One of my students gave the keynote speech.

Yet, the future of small schools in declining urban areas is in jeopardy. Massive budget cuts threaten the ability of existing small schools to maintain their emphasis on innovative instruction and personalization. Unless state lawmakers provide operating revenue to sustain small schools like Success Tech, the vision that your foundation has worked to promote could wither. The Gates Foundation’s role as the most influential sponsor of small school reform gives you an opportunity to speak to elected officials and policymakers about the need to move beyond small school rhetoric and buzzwords about academic rigor to significantly contribute to the lives of urban youth.

The short story of Success Tech Academy in Cleveland is a good place to start. Only three years old, Success Tech began with a wonderful plan crafted with your support through a planning year. Through the Gates Foundation, over the past four years, you’ve contributed about $200,000 to my school.Cleveland recruited staff from across the country to carry out our vision. Students thrived and were motivated in small classes with personal attention. Attendance at Success Tech is more than 95 percent, compared to around 80 percent for most Cleveland high schools. Student test scores outperform large Cleveland high schools, and it has one of the highest promotion rates for ninth graders in the city. In addition, few students have dropped out of Success Tech despite a less than 50 percent graduation rate in Cleveland schools. The level of student alienation is so low that the boys’ bathroom is as clean at the end of the day as it is when school opens in the morning. I do not know about the girls’ bathroom. But a thoughtful plan led by innovative staff means little over time if those same teachers cannot continue to teach because they are laid off.

Each day I walk by the state-of-the-art TV production studio, which sits vacant, possibly forever. The laid-off TV production teacher substitute teaches in other schools across the district. Ironically, in a school focused on technology with start-up funding by the Gates Foundation, it took six months this year to find the funds to pay for tech support to service the Smart Boards, the large screen TVs, and the school’s computers—about 15 per classroom.

I teach social studies in the same room as the inspiring but laid-off English teacher so beloved by her students. With her own money, this teacher bought personal books for all her students. When it was announced she was being laid off last year, her students passed out flyers in their neighborhood urging attendance at a downtown rally. She finally found a job overseeing students filling out computer-generated worksheets in a for-profit charter school with the professional practices of a McDonald’s.

She yearns to return to motivate her struggling students at Success Tech. But the prospect of her return seems dim. Students murmur how they have been sold out on the promise that they would have the same teachers from their entering freshman year through to their graduation.

That promise was broken as the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) continues to suffer through an unprecedented economic meltdown. Cleveland lost almost $50 million to for-profit charter schools last year and continues to lose $15 million of state-funded private school vouchers. Despite a promise by a special state task force to significantly increase funding to high-poverty districts, the present House budget increased state funding by a mere 2 percent to all districts, which, adjusted for inflation, actually cuts funding for schools.

This year the CMSD eliminated 1,400 positions. This action led to 900 teacher layoffs, which resulted in massive staff instability and demoralization. Success Tech alone lost 40 percent of its teaching staff, including the entire English Department. The school’s art and TV production program was cut, and class sizes ballooned throughout the school.

Our dynamic staff, willing to put in long hours and recruited based on people’s commitment to this small school model of project-based learning, interdisciplinary direction, and personalized attention, today is a shell of its former self. Additional layoffs expected in a few months will remove most of the rest of the younger staff and further erode our founding vision.

Prospective faculty at Success Tech no longer go through an interview or are asked to commit to the school’s curricular vision. Instead we’re assigned staff through the seniority process when openings arise through layoffs. In a school with 85 percent African-American students, no African-American males now teach at Success Tech.

The young and creative Social Studies Department Chair recently announced she is moving to Colorado because the job security is too unpredictable in Cleveland. She leads the Diversity club, Student Council, the Model U.N., and supervises the logistics of state-mandated testing. Of course, the testing will stay, but our students will lose another of the committed teachers recruited when Gates funding offered hope.

You can make a crucial difference for sustaining small schools in urban areas. Mr. Gates, you spoke at the February High School Summit convened by state governors. This conference offered a variety of familiar policy recommendations. Despite playing a prominent role in that summit, Ohio’s Governor Bob Taft proposed a state budget that did nothing to significantly invest in urban small schools. The layoffs next year will create even more instability in small schools like Success Tech. The school district will no longer fund extracurricular activities. Large high schools across the state undergoing small schools transformation will suffer similar operating defeats despite start-up funding from your foundation and Ohio’s KnowledgeWorks Foundation.

Mr. Gates, in your speech to the Governors Summit you declared, “ Everyone who understands the importance of education; everyone who believes in equal opportunity; everyone who has been elected to uphold the obligations of public office should be ashamed that we are breaking our promise of a free education for millions of students.” I could not agree more. But now is the time to insist that governors and other state leaders put their money where their rhetoric is.

Otherwise small schools may suffer the same fate as the National Governors Association Goals 2000 initiative of the first Bush administration. Issued in the late 1980s, Goals 2000 promised that all children would be ready for kindergarten in the year 2000. Much fanfare and some focus on early childhood education followed. But the rhetoric exceeded the financial support.

As leaders of the national small schools initiative, you are in a position to demand that state governments support the money that public-minded foundations have committed to promising reforms. Increased funding per student would provide operating money to nurture the personalized directions of small schools. Successful small schools could inspire further reform throughout the country—spurring recalcitrant districts and educators to more seriously consider the small schools option. The Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that the cost of implementing a quality college-prep curriculum for U.S. students designated “at risk of dropping out of school” would be $2,400 per student or a national total of $14 billion. Securing such funding should become a primary component of your efforts to promote high school reform. Students in urban small schools deserve a chance to succeed.

May I offer some advice? If necessary, threaten to phase out Gates Foundation grants in any state that refuses to provide the necessary resources to sustain the start-up efforts you fund. States must do more in their partnership than simply “raise the bar” and create stiffer graduation requirements. They must prioritize low-income communities and their schools in state budgets. Without this financial commitment from the states, your foundation grants merely contribute to educators’ cynicism about the possibility of fundamental change.

And I urge you to consider using your influence to bargain with unions. Here’s a deal that I believe most unions will accept: States provide small schools sufficient operating funds and the Gates Foundation, through its state intermediaries, continues to support planning, professional development, and early implementation. For their part, teacher unions will agree to staff recruiting and transfer provisions that encourage staff stability in small schools that serve students in impoverished urban areas. Low class size, real teacher leadership at the school site, and increased state funding that means more than short-term grants is enough of a carrot to get teacher unions to reexamine their placement policies. I know. I’ve been a member of my union’s executive board for the past 17 years, and participated in negotiations for four contracts.

It is up to you to use your prestige and financial leverage to bring state operating money to sustain small schools. Without immediate action, small schools could shortly become the latest in the “Been There, Done That” legacy of failed school reform.

You have the resources and ability to turn around the lives of countless young people. In the past, many state lawmakers have responded to thoughtful corporate partnerships. Please use your power to help my students. For them, a successful high school experience could make the difference between a life of personal fulfillment and social contribution or despair and dependency. Make state operating funding for small schools your mission.

Michael Charney
Social Studies Teacher
Success Tech Academy
Cleveland, Ohio

Michael Charney ( has taught in Cleveland schools for 30 years. He edited The Critique, the publication of the Cleveland Teachers Union for 14 years and, with Bob Peterson, edited the book Transforming Teacher Unions: Fighting for Better Schools and Social Justice.

Summer 2005 Rethinking Our Schools.

Latino and African American Dropouts

Coalition seeks more Latinos, blacks among grads

By Laurel Rosenhall -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PDT Thursday, July 21, 2005
Marianna Rivera still chokes back tears as she describes her son's difficulties during high school more than a decade ago. He witnessed violence, skipped class and was surrounded by administrators who expected the worst from him, Rivera said.

Despite her efforts to get involved in his education and talk to school counselors, Rivera's son ended up dropping out.

For the Sacramento mother of four, the memory is a source of pain, but also motivation.

"The way I fought for my son, we need someone to be like that for all our kids," Rivera said Wednesday as she stood on the west steps of the Capitol, where African American and Latino community leaders announced a new group focused on improving high school graduation rates.

Rivera's three other children graduated from the Sacramento City Unified School District. Yet even with one child who didn't make it, the graduation rate in Rivera's family is better than it is across the school district.

Just 53 percent of Sacramento City Unified students graduate after four years in high school, according to 2002 data analyzed by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. The success rate is lower among the district's African American and Latino students, who graduate at rates of 38 percent and 41 percent, respectively, Harvard researchers found.

"What about the 60 percent that didn't make it?" said Reggie Fair, who serves on the board of Sacramento's chapter of the NAACP, as he addressed the crowd gathered outside the Capitol.

"Where are they? What is the impact to our society?"

The new group of which Fair is a member - called the Coalition for African American and Latino Academic Achievement, Now - was formed by several Sacramento community groups including the NAACP, La Raza Network, Greater Sacramento Urban League, Chicano Consortium and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The group came together in response to the Harvard report released in March, as well as others that have documented a big gap between the academic performance of Latino and black students and their white and Asian American peers.

In Sacramento City Unified, for example, 51 percent of white students are proficient in English language arts, while 22 percent of black students have reached that level, according to data from Just for the Kids - California, a Web site that analyzes state test data.

The pattern continues across the region and the state.

"It's been well-documented in various reports that we are facing a crisis," said Manuel Valencia, of La Raza Network. "We're here ... to solve this."

Community leaders called on educators, parents and students to join the coalition and work on finding solutions to a problem that has nagged at public education for decades. They invited people to visit a new Web site,, for information on community meetings and links to reports on the achievement gap and graduation rates.

Fair said he wanted to listen to community concerns regarding the education of Latino and African American youth. Then, he said, the group would form an action plan. That could include conversations with school officials about race and equality, forming a more culturally relevant curriculum or coming up with ways to boost parent engagement, Fair said.

Rivera said she wants each high school to have an adult who is responsible for looking out for African American and Latino students. The person would act as an advocate for the students, call parents when their children miss class and make sure students are accumulating the credits necessary to graduate on time.

That proposal mirrored one suggestion from a researcher who worked on the Harvard dropout report.

"Something that's often useful is more individualized attention to a student's plan for graduation, someone making sure they get the credit they need," said Chris Swanson, who now works as a researcher for Ed Week in Maryland.

It's important for students to feel "that adults at school care about how they do," he said.

Swanson also suggested an emphasis on literacy in the ninth grade as a way to close the achievement gap and boost graduation rates. Students with poor reading skills tend to suffer in all academic subjects, he said, because the skill is crucial to understanding lessons in history, science and math. Once they fall behind in credits, Swanson said, they're more likely to drop out.

The report has generated massive community response throughout California, said Julie Mendoza, a UCLA education policy expert who also worked on the Harvard study.

"African American and Latino community members and politicians have known for years that these problems existed. The report gave them a framework to begin to organize," Mendoza said.

Efforts similar to those in Sacramento have been launched in Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland, she said.

"This report provides the type of information that says: It's not just in our heads; this is concrete, this is real."

Two school board members from Sacramento City Unified - Roy Grimes and Miguel Navarrette - attended a press conference July 14 and said they were committed to boosting academic performance.

They were joined by a trustee from Natomas Unified.

"I started looking at the numbers in Natomas and I realized we are like the rest of the state when it comes to students of color," said Jennifer Baker, who was elected to the school board last year.

Natomas schools generally score well on the state's standardized tests. But Baker said huge disparities remain between ethnic groups.

"Just because you have high test scores doesn't mean all the kids are doing well," she said.

Demanding that schools focus on the students who are not doing well is exactly why the coalition came together, said Rivera, the Sacramento City parent.

"I'm proud to be a part of a group of people who are finally saying, 'Ya basta,' " she said.

That's Spanish for "Enough, already."

Graphic: Student performance [52k GIF]

About the writer:
• The Bee's Laurel Rosenhall can be reached at (916) 321-1083 or
this story is from the Sacramento Bee.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

California scores on NAEP

NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress Three Decades of Student Performance in Reading and Mathematics:


Available at:

One can only conclude that California scores have improved in Math at the 4th. grade level but not at the 8th. grade.
There has been no improvement in reading at the 4th. or 8th. grade level since 1998.
These are the years in which rigid, “teacher proof” reading programs were used.
Open Court and Houghton Mifflin.

Scale Score
Achievement Level

Now, lets see. These are the years when the current educational leaders in the state proclaimed that their form of school reform was working. Testing and Accountability driven reform, with few or no additional funds was the mantra of the Right. And, almost all the politicians accepted this view. Teachers were to teach the material as written- not by teachers-. There was no room for teacher professional decision making.

See, Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Schools? This blog.

Pundits Daniel Weintraub and Jill Steward are both certain that these control mechanisms will improve schooling.
Well- the scores do not show it. So, I wonder what their evidence is?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Weintraub reports one side of the story

this from Daniel Weintraub's blog at the Sacramento Bee.
A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

July 12, 2005

"CSU happy with its budget
These are lean times for some programs in state government, and the past few years, overall, have been tight. But this newsletter from the Cal State University System suggests that they, at least, are quite pleased with the budget they have just been handed.

Among the highlights:

Enough money for 10,000 new students.

Pay raises for CSU employees and more money for benefits.

More financial aid."

The Rest of the Story
This is a tale that the administration of the CSU, who do not work on campuses and do not teach students, are happy with the Schwarzenegger budget. They have been happy all along. It was the faculty who opposed the budget cuts last year and the reduced appropriations this year.
The opposition has come from the faculty and the students.
The Weintraub view- the administration is the university.

The traditional academic view- The faculty are the university. And, Weintraub is not listening.
Both views leave out how you gauge the student viewpoint.
Duane Campbell
Faculty member. CSU-Sacramento.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Arnie's initiatives now have numbers

The campaigns begin.
Contact Alliance for a Better California at 916- 443-7817. Or your local union.

Prop. 74. Public School Teachers Waiting Period for Permanent Status. Dismissal.

Prop. 75. Public Employees Union dues restrictions. Prevents public emplyee unions from using their members funds for political campaigns.

• Governor Schwarzenegger and his corporate special interest allies are trying to silence the voices of working people with the his Prop. 75.

• Workers ALREADY have the option of not spending dues money on politics – the Governor wants to make it nearly impossible for working people to have a voice in the political process.

• By borrowing $2 billion from the education budget and then refusing to pay it back, Governor Schwarzenegger broke his promise to California students and schools. And now he wants to prevent all of us from telling you about it.

.This initiative will sharply cut union’s abilities to influence legislation and elections.

Prop. 76. School funding.

Slashing $4 billion from education spending per year, the equivalent of $600 less per student, the Governor’s School and Health Funding Reduction Plan would gut the voter-approved minimum funding provided to our schools through Proposition 98.
A clear power-grab by the Governor, the School and Health Funding Reduction Plan would eliminate the legislature’s authority to reject bad ideas, like further cuts to education.
Had the School and Health Funding Reduction Plan been in place during Schwarzenegger’s first two years in offi ce, he would’ve eliminated funding for programs like Healthy Start, School-to-Career Counseling, and contributions to the State Teachers Retirement System.
It would also have allowed cuts in funding for the California State University and University of California below the level needed to fund enrollment growth, without the Legislature’s approval.
Despite a recent report by the RAND Corporation concluding that California’s schools were underfunded, its class sizes too large and its teachers underpaid, the Governor’s School and Health Funding Reduction Plan cuts billions more from our public schools.
California ranks 44th out of 50 states in funding for public schools. California schools already have suffered more than $9.8 billion in cuts.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Education Coalition disappointed

CTA and Education Coalition Disappointed with State Budget
Parents, Teachers, Schools Outraged that Budget Shortchanges Students, Schools by $3.1 Billion

July 6, 2005

SACRAMENTO -- The Education Coalition today issued the following statement in reaction to last night's proposed budget agreement:

More than 1.7 million parents, teachers, school board members, school employees and administrators represented by the Education Coalition are deeply disappointed that the budget agreement announced yesterday doesn't keep the promise to provide adequate funding for California's students and public schools.

This budget is certainly not "terrific" nor is it the "best budget agreement" ever, as the governor claimed. This budget fails to mend the governor's broken promises to education, it fails to meet the Constitutional requirements of the voter-approved Proposition 98, and it underfunds our schools by $3.1 billion at a time when they receive nearly $1,000 less per pupil than the national average.

We are further disappointed that the governor now plans to makes things worse by campaigning for an initiative that gives him the power to gut Proposition 98, reduce education funding below the minimum funding guarantees and slash base funding for our schools by billions.

The Education Coalition will continue its campaign to protect Proposition 98, make sure students and schools receive the funds required under current law approved by voters and secure long-term, adequate and stable funding for public education.

The governor's agreement, state statute and the California Constitution all require an additional $1.8 billion in funding this past fiscal year and $1.3 billion in the new budget year.

We hope that the governor and the legislature will work to find a way to address the ongoing fiscal shortfalls in school districts throughout the state – shortfalls which guarantee more school closures, increase in class sizes, lay offs of teachers and support staff, and a devastating shortages of librarians, counselors and nurses. The future of our state depends on giving our students access to a quality education. Our students and schools deserve better.

Brenda Davis, President, California State PTA
Henry Bietz, President, Association of California School Administrators
Pearl Iizuka, President, California Association of School Business Officials
Larry Reider, President, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association
Mary Bergan, President, California Federation of Teachers
Dr. Kerry Clegg, President, California School Boards Association
Clyde Rivers, President, California School Employees Association
Barbara E. Kerr, President, California Teachers Association
Sal Rosselli, President, Service Employees International Union, California Council

The California Education Coalition is comprised of organizations representing more than 1.7 million parents, teachers, school board members, school employees, and administrators, including:

Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) representing nearly 15,500 school administrators
California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO) representing more than 4,000 school finance and administrative managers
California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) representing all 58 county superintendents throughout California
California Federation of Teachers (AFT-AFL-CIO) representing nearly 90,000 education employees
California School Boards Association (CSBA) representing more than 1,000 K-12 school districts and county offices of education throughout California

The Governor and the budget deal : L.A. Times

Poll Shows Gov. Needs to Make a Conciliatory Leap on Reforms, and Fast

George Skelton
Capitol Journal

July 7, 2005

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took a small step toward political rehabilitation by compromising with Democrats on a new state budget. Now he needs to take a very big step and negotiate a bipartisan agreement on a reform package for the November special election.

A poll being released today at San Jose State shows why such a broad agreement is crucial for Schwarzenegger's political future. And, conversely, it illustrates why Democrats are increasingly cool toward compromise: They think the Republican governor has trapped himself in a special election he's unlikely to win.

The statewide poll, by the nonpartisan Survey and Policy Research Institute at SJS, demonstrates why Schwarzenegger seems beatable on his "reforms." His main adversaries in the ballot brawl — labor unions generally and teachers especially — are much more popular than he is.

This governor has been violating a basic rule of life, let alone politics: Never pick a fight with someone who is bigger and stronger.

Some numbers:

• Schwarzenegger's job approval rating continues in free fall. Only 41% of voters approve of how he's handling his job; 50% disapprove. In late March, 49% approved and 38% disapproved. Among adults generally, current approval is only 34%, a steep plunge from 59% in January.

• But 57% of voters approve of labor unions; only 32% disapprove.

• And most voters — 62% — don't distinguish between public employee unions, like teachers, and their private-sector brothers, like Teamsters. They have a positive view of the whole lot. In fact, 56% say California unions should wield at least as much influence, if not more, than they do currently.

"Unions aren't the bugaboo among the public that the governor thinks they are," says the institute's director, Phil Trounstine. "That should be a warning for him."

The March SJS poll found that voters wanted Schwarzenegger to focus more on working with the Legislature and less on PR gimmicks.

By agreeing to a budget compromise Tuesday, Schwarzenegger did show he still can deal with lawmakers, despite his irritating them with bombastic rhetoric over the past year.

Now he needs to use all his negotiating talent to forge an agreement on long-term reforms, especially a spending cap. His ballot initiative — which would limit spending based on average tax revenue, transfer more budgeting power to the governor and reduce the schools' funding guarantee — is strongly opposed by public employee unions, especially the California Teachers Assn.

The new SJS poll shows why Schwarzenegger should worry about teachers union opposition.

Asked whom they would support if there were a battle over school funding between Schwarzenegger on one side and teachers and school administrators on the other, voters said by 2 to 1 that they'd line up with the ed folks (60% to 31%).

Schwarzenegger has insisted he's not attacking teachers — or nurses, cops or firefighters — only their "special interest" unions. But it doesn't sell. When most voters think of teachers, nurses and cops, they think of — what else? — teachers, nurses and cops.

Asked by the poll whether they think of teachers more as union members or classroom instructors, the reply was instructors by 3 to 1 (62% to 20%).

Moreover, the term "special interests" seemed to have little meaning for those interviewed.

"His whole rhetoric about 'special interests' as an evil force in California politics just hasn't gained traction," says Terry Christensen, a San Jose State political science professor and author of a textbook on California government. "People certainly don't identify teachers as special interests."

Notes Jack Pitney, a Claremont McKenna political scientist and former Republican official: "By taking on so many groups at once — teachers, other public employees — the governor got a stronger reaction than he expected.

"You have to pick your targets carefully. Too many at one time, you won't be able to hit all your targets and they'll shoot back."

Schwarzenegger blew his anti-union campaign early when he botched a proposed pension "reform." Some public pensions negotiated by unions have been too generous, but he overreached by attempting to switch all new retirement plans to 401(k)s. Then he endorsed — and later abandoned — a flawed proposal that failed to explicitly protect death and disability benefits for police and firefighters.

The main anti-labor initiative on the November ballot would require public employee unions to obtain permission from each member before using dues for political purposes.

"Make no mistake, this is a dagger in the heart of the Democratic Party," asserts Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles).

Before Democrats ever agree to a grand compromise on reforms, they'll require Schwarzenegger to promise not to support the anti-union initiative.

Legislators also will ask the governor to back a term limit reform. Nuñez has suggested reducing the total number of years that lawmakers can serve from 14 to 12, but allowing all the years to be spent in one house to retain experience.

The dilemma for Democrats is that Schwarzenegger has been demanding more flexibility on school financing. Democrats aren't in a giving mood on this. And teachers unions — buoyed by poll numbers — get downright enraged at the notion.

Schwarzenegger and Democrats have only one week left before the Legislature's summer recess to write a bipartisan reform package. That's an awfully big step for a weakened governor.


George Skelton writes Monday and Thursday. Reach him at

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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Budget Deal

The California Governor and legislative leaders have reached a compromise on the state budget.
The $116 billion plan increases education spending by about 3 billion. The Governor claims this is a $384 per pupil increase. These figures will need to be checked. The Governor’s office has not been known for honesty with education figures.
This $3 billion would be the normal amount expected from this year’s Prop. 98.
Last year’s Prop.98 3 billion dollar “loan” has not been repaid.
It is interesting that the Education Coalition has accepted this position of not repaying the $3 billion dollar loan since CTA made this $3 billion figure central to its anti Arnold ad campaign.
Does anyone know why the Education Coalition went along?
It looks like a win for the Governor to me. Last week even the Bee pundits were chronicling his decline, today we have a budget crafted close to the Governor’s draft (at least on public schools).
It also looks as if the Democrats were not interesting in continuing the fight for the $3 billion. They saw the fall elections as a major threat.
The initiative campaigns are run from http:://
A key initiative would prohibit public sector unions from using dues money for political campaigns. (Similar to prior proposition 226) As of July, this Schwarzennegger backed initiative would pass 57% to 34 %.
More to come.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Villaraigosa on public schools

Speaking at a national teachers convention, Villaraigosa says more money is needed.

By Jessica Garrison
Times Staff Writer

July 4, 2005

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa returned to his teachers union roots Sunday, asking 9,000 educators from around the nation to join him in fighting for more money for public schools.

After a speech before the annual assembly of the National Education Assn., Villaraigosa, who once worked as an organizer for the city's teachers union, also reiterated a pledge to develop proposals to start fixing the troubled Los Angeles Unified School District by the fall.

"I'm committed to those public schools…. I know why America is great," said Villaraigosa, a one-time high school dropout who credits his public school counselor with helping him get back on track.

"Don't let anyone tell you that the effort will come cheap — that's ludicrous," he said. "That's snake oil."

The mayor, who was sworn in Friday, said during his inaugural address that reforming the city's schools will be "a central priority of my administration" and "is the central challenge facing Los Angeles" — even though the mayor has no direct control over the beleaguered school district.

During his address, Villaraigosa also announced that he would create a Council of Education Advisors that would immediately begin formulating plans to improve conditions in the city's schools, where recent studies have shown that fewer than half of students graduate from high school.

On Sunday, as teachers from throughout the nation surrounded him trying to shake his hand, Villaraigosa said he would name the advisors "very shortly." He said the group would include "teachers, parents and community leaders."

Some sources said that A.J. Duffy, the new president of United Teachers Los Angeles, the district's teachers union, would probably be one of those named.

"He recognizes that UTLA is a major player in this battle to fix what is going on in public schools," Duffy said of the city's new mayor, adding that any reform of the district must include a slimming of its "bloated bureaucracy."

"The money belongs at the school sites and in the classrooms," said the union president, moments after delivering a fiery address to the delegates.

"What I'm going after, and what I hope Antonio will become an ally [in], is to go after the bureaucratic mentality that exists at LAUSD," Duffy said.

The mayor said the group would differ from two other recently created school-reform commissions, one started by the City Council and the other by the school board. Villaraigosa said his council would not be looking at the question of governance, but rather at "what we do now" to produce immediate change.

Once again, Villaraigosa remained silent about a proposal he made last month to change laws to give him the power to appoint school board members who oversee the city's 740,000-student system.

Such a proposal, which Villaraigosa has stressed is one of many possible reforms, would put him at odds with the teachers unions, which are among his most ardent supporters.

During the mayoral campaign, United Teachers Los Angeles spent $185,000 on radio ads in support of him, and the California Teachers Assn. spent $500,000 on a television ad mocking his rival's education record.

"There's no single path, no quick fix," Villaraigosa said Sunday. "Most of us who are around our public schools know this is going to be an arduous journey."

The mayor also urged the 9,000 visiting teachers to spend "as much money as you can" during their stay in Los Angeles. The National Education Assn. estimates they will contribute $25 million to the local economy.

Needed: Great public schools

Great Public Schools for Every Child

NEA President Calls on Nation to Join the Fight for Great Public Schools for Every Child

LOS ANGELES – On the day that he was chosen to lead the 2.7 million-member National Education Association (NEA) for another term, President Reg Weaver issued a call to the nation to give children, educators and public schools what they need to improve student achievement and close the achievement gaps.

“Public education is the cornerstone, the foundation, the core of democracy. It is what has made this country great,” Weaver said in his keynote address to more than 9,000 delegates. “I am asking you, the NEA…to make a covenant with this nation, a covenant that states what it takes to make the promise of a great public school system a reality.”

Even though the public trusts teachers more than anyone to say what education reforms are needed, “we are at a critical crossroads” with schools and educators battered by funding cuts, privatization schemes, and the rigid demands of the so-called No Child Left Behind Act, he said.

In order to ensure every child has access to a great public school, NEA must step up its fight in six critical areas, Weaver stated. First, NEA increased its membership by more than 92,000 during his first three years as president—allowing it to become a more powerful advocate for children and public schools—and the Association’s organizing efforts will continue full speed ahead.

NEA also has achieved some success in its efforts to fix and fund the so-called No Child Left Behind Act. The U.S. Department of Education has made regulatory changes to the law, 179 Members of Congress have signed on to legislative proposals to improve the law, and many other groups are echoing NEA’s concerns.

With the costs and demands of the law increasing, NEA and its affiliates filed a lawsuit against the Department. Weaver expressed disbelief that the Department is claiming that NEA and its members have no legal standing to sue: “We could not sit back while the children, students and educators of this country became professional test-takers and test-givers—because we do have standing, and we will stand up for the hopes and the dreams and for the future of this great nation!”

Pointing out that voucher advocates and other privatization proponents are actively courting minority parents, Weaver also urged NEA members to work hard to build partnerships with minority communities and to communicate to them what the Association is doing to close the achievement gaps for minority students.

Another component of Weaver’s vision is a nationwide push to attract and retain quality teachers and education support staff in the profession. NEA today announced a nationwide push for a $40,000 minimum starting salary for teachers as well as enhanced pay for veteran teachers and an appropriate living wage for other school personnel.

Greater support for teachers goes hand-in-hand with greater responsibility for all, Weaver noted. “We must insist upon the professionalism of all of our colleagues, and we must also be willing to assist and support them,” but it’s also up to parents to get more involved in their children’s education and policymakers to provide the investments public schools require, he said.

That’s why as NEA builds its grassroots capacity, it will continue supporting those who stand with its members in support of public education, Weaver said.

“We continue to mobilize in order that we might cultivate a political base that ignores whether you are on the left or right side of the aisle, but recognizes and supports whether you are on the side of the children, students, teachers, faculty and education support professionals,” he said.

July 3, 2005

Daniel Kaufman, (301) 651-0559 (cell) or
Melinda Anderson, (703) 927-8044 (cell) or


The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 2.7 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

David McCullough and misinformation

Another one of the many times when informed persons, in this case a historian, is accepted as an expert on schooling –which he is not.

In the July 2 interview with David McCollough by Tim Russert on CNBC about the new book 1776. the interview was informative and very interesting. I enjoyed the history offered about the War of Independence.

However, McCollough should be more accurate with his claims of information.
Tim Russert asked: "Why do current U.S. students know so little history?"
McCollough: " One major reason is that teachers don't have to study history. T
They can major in Education and not take any history. Then, since they do not know history, they do not share its excitement and interest. "

This is an old claim which has been bouncing around right wing circles for decades- and it is wrong. Such claims are often accepted as truth in Republican circles.
I graduated with a B.A. in Social Studies Education in 1964,from the U. of Norther Iowa. I had to take a substantial number of history courses. I later received an M.A. and a Doctorate in History from Carnegie Mellon U.

In California since 1972 you can not major in education. You must major in an academic discipline. Now, over 10% of the nation's students are in California.
There is no evidence that California students know more history than students from other states where teachers may major in history.

The interview was great and the book seems interesting.
However, we should not allow these throw away criticisms of teachers to go unanswered. In this case, they are simply wrong.

Duane E. Campbell


Friday, July 01, 2005

Battle of ideas

This blog is established to engage in the battle of ideas about democracy and education.
Major issues for education are a part of the current state budget debates and the fall elections.
The initiatives on the budget will effect schools. The initiative on teacher tenure reveals a scapegoating and wedge issue strategy from the far Right. The initiative on preventing union funds from being used in elections seeks to take away from teachers their ability to elect pro-education legislators.
In political terms, there are at least two parts to our efforts: one is to organize and mobilize voters; the second is to engage in the battle of ideas. This second task is to develop arguments to promote democracy and public education and to oppose those such as Jill Stewart, the poorly informed press, and the governor, who seek to further reduce democracy and participation in public education.
Readers are invited to post responses to entries.
Duane Campbell
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